Thousands of people are stuck on waiting lists for social housing in Sunderland as bosses struggle to balance supply and demand.
On January 18, Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board heard an update on social housing in the city.
The report, presented to health bosses and councillors, revealed more than 2,000 people are waiting for social housing that meets their needs.
Of this number, 44% want a house and 29% are looking for a bungalow.
Senior housing manager for peoples’ services on the council, Liz McEvoy, speaking at Sunderland Civic Centre, said the council are facing an “imbalance” around supply and demand.
This includes the number of new homes being built set against the loss of stock through ‘right to buy’.
“We have 2,000 people on our housing register who are awaiting social housing, a lot of them are waiting for bungalows,” she said.
“We do have issues with housing supply and demand but we’re doing a lot to have a look at increasing the supply.”
Currently, social housing makes up 28% of the council’s overall stock at 34,440 homes – a figure higher than the national average of 17%.
Recent findings from a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2017) said there was an imbalance of 542 affordable homes per year in Sunderland – with around 40% of households unable to pay an average affordable rent.
While there is no formal affordable housing development programme in Sunderland, actions are being taken to tackle the imbalance.
This includes working with social landlords and using section 106 funds from developers – sums agreed during the planning process – to bring empty homes into use.
The ‘local authority accelerated construction programme’ also aims to speed up housebuilding in Sunderland with around 100 extra affordable homes set for completion by March 2021.
At the meeting, Coun Ronny Davison raised concerns about the Decent Homes Standard for public housing and its failure to include double glazing.
“I know a lot of people suffer from the lack of double glazing with condensation running down the windows,” she said.
“Being told to turn the heating full on and open all the windows is not a solution and I think that should definitely be in the Decent Homes Standard.”
The council’s housing stock was transferred to Gentoo in 2001, with the firm currently owning 28,932 properties which are let at affordable rents or in shared ownership.
While Gentoo are 100% per cent compliant under the standard, the meeting heard they have been rolling out a programme to replace single glazing with double glazing.
Several other social landlords also operate in Sunderland including Bernicia, Home, Karbon, Thirteen and County Durham Homes.
Looking forward, new housing tests will take place to give a up to date picture of supply and demand in the city.
Ms McEvoy added: “We do have a range of good quality social housing in the city and it really does help the needs of some of our most vulnerable people.
“It does contribute to health and wellbeing because of the quality of the stock and the way its managed and we have really good partnership with our social landlords.
“Yes, the affordable housing imbalance is not being met but there is a lot of work and proactive work going on to meet this.”
Following discussion health and housing bosses pledged to work together to tackle housing needs and issues in the social sector.
This includes challenges around an aging population, homelessness and standards in the private rented sector.
A council report adds: “Although there is still an affordable housing imbalance, there is a growth in the development of social housing, largely due to funding from Homes England and the availability of council owned land. ”
Despite this, Sunderland’s housing imbalance is expected to continue until 2021.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service